Intelligence Evolving (2008)

Gaff's Unicorn

So I was digging through my FTP space when I happened across this gem. Back when I was studying Computer Information Systems at DeVry University (go ahead, get your laugh/joke in, I’ll wait… ok, good, ready?) I was often amazed at the lack of forward thinking and technological illiteracy by both students and faculty. I mean, I shouldn’t have been, but it was still kind of disheartening to be in a “technology school” and be surrounded by technologically inept people. In fact, I published an FAQ to setting up basic devry.edu accounts on this site that still gets a crazy number of hits every month (dropslash.com/devry).

Anywho, I ended up getting so frustrated that I converted a post I once made on this site in 2007 about the need to reassess how intelligence is quantified in the emerging networked world into an essay and submitted it as a class assignment. I used to publish my papers to my webspace and deliver them as links because I didn’t have a printer and, well, I think for the most part printing is an archaic practice. So below is that essay. It’s crazy how some of the numbers have changed in the past 4 years, especially global population.

And no, this essay didn’t fly well with the professor, but that was expected. I’m sure my not-so-subtle closing jabs didn’t help matters.


Intelligence Evolving:
Why traditional assessment will have to change for the Information Age.
Ferbuary 13, 2008

As the modern world evolves through technology, the need to redefine many accepted standards has arisen. Among these accepted standards are those that define, quantify, and legitimize an individuals “intelligence”. Before we reevaluate the standards that surround intelligence though, we first need to explore some of the more common, accepted, definitions of intelligence.

There are two widely accepted consensus definitions of intelligence and hundreds of individual definitions. The first of the two consensus definitions was set forth in 1995 by the American Psychological Association in their report entitled “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns”. It reads:

“Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person’s intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria. Concepts of “intelligence” are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen prominent theorists were recently asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen somewhat different definitions.”

The second consensus definition comes from an earlier report. In 1994 the Wall Street Journal published an opinion article written by psychology professor Linda Gottfredson entitled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence”. It was a list of 25 statements that claimed to uphold findings on the subject of intelligence research discussed in the 1994 book The Bell Curve by Harvard professor Richard J. Herrnstein and American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murray. The article was signed by 52 professors (including Gottfredson) specializing in intelligence and related fields at the time. Its definition reads:

“A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—”catching on”, “making sense” of things, or “figuring out” what to do.”

Even though these definitions are both over ten years old, they are still the two most widely accepted consensus definitions. From these two definitions we can easily construct a simple definition. In general, intelligence is an over-arching term used to describe aspects of the mind that encompass a range of related abilities, such as reasoning, planning, problem solving, abstract thinking, comprehension, use of language, and learning.

While the general definitions of intelligence are broad enough to advance alongside the changes of society and culture, the means by which intelligence is assessed by organizations has not been. Technology has leapt forward by enormous, almost incomprehensible, distances in just the past decade and these advancements have had a profound effect on many of the accepted aspects of intelligence, especially the acquisition and retention of information, or data.

As previously mentioned, the advancement of technology has forced many accepted standards to adjust and adapt for modern times. One doesn’t have to look further then the ongoing battle between the music industry and file sharing technology advocates for a basic example of this. Copyright law has been thrust into the limelight over the past decade with many changes being made over the course of that time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, signed into law in 1998, is probably the most well known example of standards (in this case, law) being amended in an attempt to adapt to a digital age.

As these technologies advance, so must our definitions of ideas and standards for institutions that are drastically changed by said technology. Copyright law is just one example of how emerging technology has forced traditional standards to adapt and adjust to the modern, digital, age. As we continue forward we will explore another established standard that has not adapted to address the role modern technology plays in our lives, the assessment of intelligence.

Attempting to recount all the ways technology has changed the lives of humans in the modern world could fill millions of pages, and even before you finished you’d have to write a million more. For the purpose of this paper we’ll take a look into modern communications technologies and how they’ve drastically changed how people access and utilize information every day.

It can be argued that modern communications technology has reduced the need for the individual to store large of quantities of information in their brain. While it cannot substitute for experience, there is a vast wealth of information available to an individual at nearly anytime, anywhere. As this trend continues, the need for a new standard is established; one which accounts for the individual’s ability to retrieve relevant information from a remote node, rather than just recite it from memory. This is, in computer terminology, networking or remote access. By storing information remotely and accessing it when it’s needed over a network you can save resources on the host machine. For humans, this means not having to store “trivial” information in the local bran and instead leave it in a remote location and access it only when it’s needed. The challenge here is the interface, the tools used to access the information. It is in the past decade though that we’ve seen huge advancements in this field of technology.

In November, 2007, the level of global cellphone penetration reached a staggering fifty percent (Reuters, 2007). That is, half the people in the world, roughly 3.35 billion people as of February 2008 (US Census Bureau, 2008). Millions of these phones are capable of accessing the internet for information, but even the ones that are not are having a profound effect on the people that use them. According to a 2007 survey by Ian Robertson, professor of psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, two thirds of people surveyed relied on a mobile phone or electronic organizer to remember key dates and phone numbers. The same survey revealed that people below the age of 30 stored far less dates and numbers in their brain than those over the age of 50 (Reuters, 2007). I’m sure anyone who reads this can relate a similar instance. In a conversation with my father, a man I respect for his profound knowledge and intelligence, about this topic he revealed that he has found that his once encyclopedic knowledge of sports trivia has been rendered almost obsolete by the internet and people’s access to it. The separation of human memory and machine memory is seemingly dissolving further every day.

As humans continue to integrate these technologies into all aspects of their lives, we’re forced to adjust and re-write standards that now fail to address the new issues presented by that very technology. We’ve seen one example of standards struggling with technology in the form of copyright law. An even greater example of how standards are being rendered obsolete as humans merge with technology is the story of Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius, who had his legs amputated when he was one year old, has been training as an Olympic sprinter for most of his life. He was recently denied entry into the 2008 Olympic Games because his prosthetic legs were ruled by the International Association of Athletics Federation to be superior to natural human legs (IAAF, 2008). The prevailing opinion in our culture is that completely natural is superior to artificial prosthetics, yet Pistorius has proven just the opposite. His “disability” is actually ability. An appeal is expected. This is precedent setting in that an official ruling body has declared that artificial, prosthetic, limbs are superior to natural ones.

This brings us back to the topic of assessment. Copyright infringement can be measured in downloads and dollars. Sprinting can be measured in meters and seconds. How is intelligence measured? With so many aspects present it seems almost impossible to accurately judge and quantify a person’s intelligence, yet we all seem to know what is “smart” and what is not.

There are many different ways to measure intelligence, but most methods are based around two approaches, each over 100 years old. The first method is based on the studies of Sir Francis Galton, an English scientist. He conducted studies from 1884 to 1890 based on psychophysical tasks, which he believed were the basis for intelligence. It’s the second method though that has become the basis for most modern intelligence tests. Developed as a child’s test in 1904 by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, it was brought to America from France and modified by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman. This became known as the Stanford-Binet test. This test produced a score called an Intelligence Quotient, or IQ. Many of today’s modern tests, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, score multiple IQs for different categories as well as an overall IQ.

Intelligence Quotient however was originally formulated by a ratio of mental age to chronological age multiplied by one hundred. It should be noted that few test still utilize this method. Most of today’s IQ tests produce a result based on statistical distribution, or bell curve. The third edition of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS III) is one of the most popular IQ tests today. It consists of fourteen categories broken into two subtests, Verbal and Performance, and the results are grouped by four indices; Verbal comprehension, perceptual organization, working memory, and processing speed (Wechsler, 2008).

The test is considered quite thorough, hence its acceptance as a standard means by which to measure IQ. Although the tested categories include many applicable skills as related to intelligence, none test a subject’s ability to acquire accurate information efficiently from a remote source. For example, the Verbal Information Subtest is based on the general information acquired from culture, a common example being “Who is the president of Russia?”. The test accounts for whether or not the subject knows the answer, but not his/her ability to retrieve the answer from a remote node in a satisfactory manner.

While it should be noted that IQ tests are not an exhaustive means by which to measure intelligence, many other styles of intelligence testing exist, they are the accepted standards by many official organizations.

With so many aspects of intelligence and so many definitions of those aspects it’s amazing that any standards of evaluation exist at all. As mentioned, we all seem to instinctively know “smart” and “stupid”, but quantifying these aspects of humanity will never be exacting. This is why it is important for standards to be malleable and adaptable. Unfortunately, it seems that once a standard is accepted by the majority of authoritative bodies it becomes very difficult to proactively alter unless the change is directly beneficial to the authoritative body. Typically an authoritative body will not actively pursue the process of standards alteration unless they perceive a direct threat, such as with copyright law.

So where does this leave us? Many modern official institutions that are recognized and instituted to foster the growth of intelligence and knowledge operate on standards developed for, and from, a time long past. While the premises of many of these standards are still relevant today, their actual function in today’s modern world is sadly obsolete. Fortunately some authoritative institutions are realizing this deficiency and attempting to modernize and adapt. In 1999 The National Science Foundation (NSF) requested the results of a two year study by the National Research Council (NRC) about information technology literacy. The report was entitled “Being Fluent with Information Technology” and stressed that fluency in information technology (FIT) was a synthesis of knowledge rather than just a display of skills. In the IT Journal Educause, Anne Moore (2007) writes about the findings of the report as well as the need to rethink the approach to teaching, learning, technology literacy, and performance assessment.

Another example of authoritative bodies attempting to update the standards by which they assess intelligence is California State University and the Educational Testing Service’s (ETS) Information and Communication Technology Literacy Assessment. An article in USA TODAY (2005) outlines how the test was instituted at Cal State and how the test is designed to test what they call “Internet IQ”. It includes many real world simulations, such as finding a correct answer on the internet and evaluating the legitimacy of online sources. The article also mentions the growing rift between teachers and students, in such that “Of course, some of those text-messaging students are still being taught by professors whose idea of a personal data assistant is a fresh pad of Post-Its.” This is one of the cores problems that exist today with changing intelligence assessment for the modern age, many of those who would be responsible for the giving the assessment are not well versed enough to understand its content, much less its application.

This disconnect between teacher and student forces the generation gap to become almost exaggeratedly visible. The younger generation, having grown up with these technological advancements, follows one set of cultural standards, while the older follows another completely. These tests generally have not been developed by people actually using and understanding the technology, people who have been immersed in its potential and application. The older generation, typically through positions of authority, continues to enforce standards that become more and more obsolete as technology advances, standards like copyright law and prosthetic inclusion. Many times the authoritative body cannot even explain why they cling to obsolete standards, they have forgot the reasons behind the rules and maintain them out of tradition rather than face a change they do not understand. It is my experience that people of authority in this position do not enjoy being questioned about it. They do not seek to understand the “why” of a standard, its existence is enough to warrant adherence. This seems counterproductive to the learning experience, but I suppose no one likes being made aware of their shortcomings.

Technology has changed the face of the world we live in. Ideally, for every step mankind takes in technological development an equal step is taken in understanding. This, unfortunately, is not the case. As time and progress march unstoppably forward though, that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of this generation, and the next.



References

Gottfredson, L. (1994, December 13). Mainstream Science on Intelligence.
The Wall Street Journal, p. A18

Herrnstein, R., Murray, C. (1994). The Bell curve.
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster

Kurzweil, R. (2005). The Singularity is near.
New York, NY: Viking Penguin.

Litman, J. (2001). Digital copyright.
Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Logan, J. (2008). iGeneration: Shuffling toward the future.
New York, NY: Penguin Global.

McHugh, Josh. (2007, March). Blade Runner.
WIRED, 15-03, 136-141, 179

Neisser, U., Boodoo, G., Bouchard, T., Boykin, A., Brody, N., Ceci, S., et al.
(1996). Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns.

American Psychologist, 51, 77-102
Reuters. (2007, November 29). Global cellphone penetration reaches 50 pct.

Reuters UK. Retrieved on February 15, 2008 from http://investing.reuters.co.uk/news/articleinvesting.aspx?type=media&storyID=nL29172095.


Links

  1. WIRED Magazine
  2. New York Magazine
  3. USA Today
  4. The Wall Street Journal
  5. The University of Washington News and Information
  6. The International Association of Athletics Federations
  7. The Education Resources Information Center
  8. Educause Quarterly
  9. Ray Kurzweil @ Wikipedia.org
  10. iGeneration (Main Site)

Watching Past The Day [Updated]

Magnetic North
Magnetic North

2011 fades away, and what a year it was. I’m going to be breaking this into multiple posts. A couple that are my year mostly in numbers, like books, movies, travel, etc. The other mostly made up of intangibles, life, love, lessons, and the like. This will be one of the former. I tend to document and record lots of data as kind of a side function of my everyday goings on. It’s not that I’m particularly stat focused or live life by numbers, but I like to keep track of where I go, how I got there, how much I did. It’s pretty easy to do now-a-days, especially since a lot of record keeping is automated. All you have to do is know where to look for the data. For example, I can look at my Verizon Wireless account and see that I spent 3289 minutes [52.4 hours / 2.18 days] talking on my phone this year. That doesn’t include Google Voice, GMail, or Skype calls, so the total is probably a bit higher. A more impressive number is texts. 20,608 from my phone and another 15,223 from Google Voice, for a total of 35,831 text messages. So, all the info is out there, it just needs to be added up.

Continue reading

The Eyes Of Disarray: Pt.2

Brooklyn Sunset
Brooklyn Sunset

So, where were we? I’m more of a “spur of the moment” or “stream of consciousness” writer, so there’s a lot to keep track of in recap style posts. When I first started writing this (Pt. 1), I was on my way to Syracuse, NY from Santa Cruz, CA to visit a dear friend. It was going to be some quiet time to get some work done, relax, and get organized a bit. I’m picking this post back up at Pt. 2, sitting 17 stories above Atlantic Center in Brooklyn, NY, after a snowstorm caused power outages that are preventing me from heading to Boston, MA sitting in a Starbucks in Atlantic Center in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been talking to people about heading to LA. Work may be taking me back to Seattle. I have some plans for this upcoming New Year… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley

Monument Valley, Utah

This was an unexpected side strip. It was 10:30AM, I had just finished breakfast, and I was getting ready to settle in and knock out some writing and photography work. I had a lot to get done, a lot in my notorious backlog, and was looking forward to a down day after the drive from Yermo, CA to Holbrook, AZ. I had just opened my laptop when I got a cuff on the arm followed by “Grab your gear, you’re already holding us up.” I had no idea what was going on and that frustrated me a bit. I don’t hold people up, I don’t waste time. Anyway. I wasn’t even in clean clothes, but I figured we couldn’t be going too far. I grabbed my basic photo gear; my 10-22mm, 28mm, 50mm, 70-200mm (I knew Barry would have his 24-70mm and 14mm fisheye, among others), tripod, remote trigger, etc. I suppose at any point I could have asked where we were going, but by this point frustration had begun to creep in and I started not to really care.

If you’ve never driven to Monument Valley, UT from Holbrook, AZ, it’s about a three and half hour drive across the desert and wastelands. Now, that’s totally fine under normal circumstances, but these weren’t quite. As far as I knew, we had no supplies (I’ve been stuck in the desert before with no water. It is not fun.) and no plans to get any. That is an easily fixable situation though, so long as there are places to stop along the way (there were). What was not fixable, was being in the confines of a pickup truck cab (the truck is actually really comfortable) with no escape from the endless onslaught of cigarette smoke. If you’ve read the first part of this story, you know my stance on the whole thing. No need to rehash it here. I probably breathed in more carbon monoxide than oxygen on that ride. I didn’t do much to alleviate my mood. Luckily though, I was about to get a chance to purge that with more fresh air than any person could ever breathe.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley

Now, as I’ve said before, I’m not really a landscape guy. I can appreciate the majesty of nature, beautiful sweeping vistas, the glory of nature, etc. but there have been very few times in my life when I’ve been truly awestruck by the beauty of nature. One was the first time I drove clear across the state of Texas. I didn’t understand the meaning of “Big Sky Country” until that moment. Another was much more recent, but it’s the fishtail end of this story, so remember these few sentences, I’m going to reference them later. Anyway, we got to Monument Valley and were immediately met with a view of “The Mittens”. If you’ve ever seen the classic John Wayne western, Stagecoach, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, and were born around the same time I was, then you’d probably recognize the view from Airwolf (although in the show it was called “Valley of the Gods”), since that’s where Hawke and Dom’s secret base was.

Random Aside: Airwolf.

Anyway. The view didn’t really blow me away but then again, I’m not big on the average views of things. I don’t like taking photos of things anyone else can take a photograph of (this is why I like photographing people), static things. I prefer to find a different view, a different perspective, if possible. Fortunately this is exactly what Barry had in mind. Twenty minutes later I would find myself in the back of an off-road rigged Jeep Wrangler, firm grip in the “oh shit” handles, bouncing across the valley floor.

Right Size
Right Size

This is where it all started to become worth the trip out there. The views from the valley floor, the far outlaying corners, the vast open expanses of nothingness; this was truly breathtaking. I’ve mentioned in the past that I love the desert. It’s clean to me. It’s dry and barren and simple. It burns away everything except the core of a being and even then, if you can’t adapt, it will burn that away too. I jumped out of the Jeep deep into the valley and just walked alone for a while. I explored by myself, able to see the valley how I wanted, able to experience the vast nothingness alone, and able to photograph what I wanted to. There is beauty, to me, in that kind of desolation. Being able to see into infinity in every direction and not see another living soul. I’m sure there is a metaphor in here for how I was feeling at the time (and, to a point, still do), but it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t really want to leave. I could have wandered into that desolation without any care for being found. Then I remembered that I’m still planning to visit Mt. Everest, so no disappearing into the wilds until that is off my list.

ANYWAY. It was a pretty amazing experience. I took a lot of deep breathes, did my best to purge my poor lungs, knowing that there was still the ride home ahead of me. That went about as well as the trip there, though I was in a slightly better mood. Back in Holbrook meant dinner and attempted sleep before pushing through to Albuquerque, NM the next morning.

And away...
And away...

And that concludes the side trips. Remember, I’m still on the road at this point. Living out of the same suitcase that carried me through Paris.

Albuquerque, NM

Albuquerque, NM. I’d been here plenty of times in the past, on tour, but nothing particularly memorable stuck out. We arrived on Thursday; Stephen would be arriving from Santa Cruz and meeting up with us on Friday. We took a look at the convention space, got parking settled for the RV, and finally got checked into a hotel, which was a simple luxury at this point (the last hotel I’d stayed in was all the way back in Seattle, the night before I left for Olympia, and it was terrible). I was able to unpack a little, air out my clothes, take a hot shower, and get caught up a little on photos, which by this point had been stacking up considerably. Apparently the place to eat in ABQ is Rudy’s BBQ, so that was the next stop (we would visit more than once on this trip, thus would begin the Banana Pudding Saga).

Not The Banana Pudding
Not Banana Pudding (P)

This would also begin my early morning Friday quest to get my new business cards from the USPS, who are probably the most infuriatingly inept organization run by actual nice people. The short story is that they decided to not deliver my cards to the hotel because… I dunno. It’s a hotel? That doesn’t make sense to me. All I know was that I was tracking the delivery status like Prince Humperdinck following a falcon on a cloudy day and one minute it was “Out for delivery” and the next it was “Undeliverable: Return to sender”. Not even an option to redeliver, I mean, seriously? I was 25 yards from the hotel front desk. By that time it was close to 5:00PM, which means I was SoL. I called, got run around, and decided that the best way to get my cards (which I needed for the show the next day) was to go to the post office first thing in the morning and try and intercept them before they got shipped back. This would lead to a 6 mile walk across Albuquerque, 2 different post offices, some incredibly helpful USPS personnel, and eventually getting my cards. They were printed by MOO.com and they are beautiful. Not how I was hoping to spend what would have otherwise my first morning to sleep late in weeks, but it had to be done. Mission: Complete.

Cards
Cards (P)

Rock The Ink 2011

My next goal for that Friday was to build as much of the Anatometal booth as possible before Stephen arrived. This was old hat for me and building a single booth was pretty low key compared to some of the elaborate events I’ve produced in the past. I had a basic grasp of the booth from the tear-down in Vegas, so I managed to get about 75% of the structures up before Stephen waltzed in (Hi Steve!).

Miss Rock The Ink 2011
Miss Rock The Ink 2011

The show itself was… a show. This was much more of an “everybody knows each other” style show than Las Vegas, more of a family and/or community feel. I was introduced to lots of great folks, all very “friends of the family” style. I became a sort of unofficial official photographer (something to note for later) which was interesting to me because I was still a sort of “outsider” in this whole thing. It was also interesting to observe because even though this event has happened for a few years now, it did not seem particularly well organized.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying that to be mean, it’s just an observation from someone (hint: me) who has professionally produced special events for a long time.

The people I talked to did mention some issues that had arisen just before the event started, like a major venue change, but there were some location independent aspects, like social media and photography coordination, that could have been handled better than they were. It’s not the fault of any single person, but general production planning and event execution. On the upside of that is it’s easy for me to see where those gaps are and with a little planning assistance, the next show can be off the charts. So yeah, shot a lot of photos, met a lot of amazing people. I certainly look forward to being involved with Rock The Ink in the future. I suppose we’ll see.

The Road Back

So, with RtI 2011 behind us, it was back to Santa Cruz. The ride back was pretty much the ride there in reverse, with less side trips. We were on a schedule, so there wasn’t a lot of dilly-dallying to be had.

All The Damn Vampires

During my time in ABQ I’d made plans to head to Syracuse, NY via Boston, MA depending on how travel back to SC panned out. I ended up driving back to SC with Barry in the RV, which was a similar enough to the trip down that it doesn’t require great explanation, so I’d be flying straight to Syracuse through NYC. Before that though, I was going to have another one of those breathtaking landscape moments.

Barry
Barry

I really only had a handful of hours in Santa Cruz before heading to San Jose Airport to catch the red eye to Syracuse, via NYC. Luckily we arrived just before Golden Hour so, aside from a few errands, I was able to head directly to the coast to shoot the sunset. Barry knew a couple of spots that were just spectacular.

Santa Cruz Sunset
Santa Cruz Sunset

I watched a beautiful sunset on the coast, then to dinner with the Santa Cruz folks. It was a beautiful way to wrap up my time on the west coast. After dinner I was off to San Jose airport to catch the red eye to Syracuse, NY after a layover in New York City. I’ve been hesitant to return to the east coast given the time of year. The weather in the north east has a way of trapping people here and that was the last thing I wanted. I boarded my flight and tried to get some sleep.


And I feel that time’s a wasted go
So where ya going to tomorrow?
And I see that these are lies to come
Would you even care?

The Eyes of Disarray: Pt. 1

This is going to be a long one. I’m really far behind on a lot of things simply due to the craziness of my recent travel and shooting schedule. So, if you’re content to read it all in one go, grab a cup of coffee, a snack, and let’s get caught up. I’ll wait.

Good to go? Alrighty then.

Mario Barth’s “Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth”

BTSOE 2011

AKA: Amazing People, Terrible Lighting.

This actually happened about three weeks ago, which is crazy to think about since it seems like I was just there. I was invited down to the Mario Barth’s Biggest Tattoo Show On Earth by my best friend, Stephen, who was working at the show with the company he works for, Anatometal. His boss, and owner of Anatometal, Barry Blanchard, is a bit of a photog, so the offer was extended to come down and shoot for the show. It wasn’t an actual paid gig beyond what I can license out, but it was worth it for the people I met and the shooting I was able to do. I had a lot of exclusive access to show happenings, so that was a good time. I shot thousands of photos and I’m still trying to process the backlog of them all. The odds of anything significant coming out of them are low, but it did lead to some other opportunities and potential work.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

I’ve been disconnected from the body modification scene for a while. I first got pierced when I was 16 (ears/tongue/nipples) and tattooed when I was 18 (my 2nd day after moving to NYC). It’s been part of my life for a long time, but my involvement in the community fell off drastically when I started touring for a living and especially now that BME‘s “IAM” (an amazing social network that existed before social networks were even a thing) has seen its last days. There just isn’t the time to devote to it. My arms remain unfinished and I’ve removed a lot of my facial piercings and while I don’t really see the need to get any more piercings, I do want to finish my tattoos, and get a few more.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

Being in Vegas, though, made me realize not just how disconnected I’d become, but also how much the entire industry has not particularly changed that much. The events are still kind of gimmicky and a lot of the industry still deals with a lot of cliché and stereotype. Granted, you kind of have to be when so much of the business is based on the general public. While I do not doubt the creativity, talent, and artistry involved, the whole industry could still use an injection of professionalism and organization. Administrative bodies like the APP have gone a long way with that, but given how old the trade is, I’m surprised it’s still as slap-dash as it is. I do love the people though. The unique expressionism, attitude, and overall acceptance of the community is amazing.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

I got to meet Bill Tinney and his wife at BTSOE, which was a huge highlight. He is an incredible photographer and old hat to a lot of these events. I got some great advice from his wife over the weekend and I’ve taken it all to heart. It offered me a bit of an unexpected perspective change and I am certainly grateful for it.

The Monday after the show, I had a long talk with my dad about life and business and travel while I waited for the bus back to LA. It was right on time. I jumped on and headed back to Los Angeles without incident. Not bad for $25.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

So yeah. A long, introspective bus ride both ways, through the desert. It provided further affirmation for me though that my personal values seem to exist in a space that is just not aligned with the majority of people I know. It doesn’t affect the work that I am able to produce on a technical level, but the longer I’m around people in a “professional” setting, the more I find I have to just isolate myself and work on my own level. I was kind of hoping it was just the result of working around people I’d never worked with before (aside from Stephen) and who are from a completely different industry. It’s not that there is no common ground, just highly different values and operational procedure. I end up hearing the same thing I’ve heard my entire life… “Why are you so serious all the time?” The post right before this one expands on this concept. Little did I know this would come up again, in a much more exaggerated fashion, a couple weeks later.

So, like I mentioned, it was a long bus ride through the desert back to LA from Vegas. I’ve made that drive many times in my life. On the way back, they showed “Despicable Me“, which I’d never seen and thought was pretty funny, “500 Days of Summer“, which I’d also never seen and didn’t particularly enjoy for personal reasons, and “When In Rome“, which I have, amazingly, seen before but cannot remember where. I listened to my usual podcasts and did a lot of staring out the window.

Back to the City of Angels

Hollywood Sunset
Hollywood Sunset

The bus actually got back to LA early, but then the LA Metro (if you can even call it that) was having all kinds of delays, so that pretty much canceled out any progress that had been made. I hoofed it back to Michelle’s place in Hollywood and got ready to jump over to my brother’s condo in Santa Monica for my last few days in LA. One of the last things I did in Hollywood was do some light wardrobe shopping in an attempt to reconnect with myself. It sounds silly, but reshuffling my clothes a little has gone a ways towards making me feel more comfortable with myself.

Marc
Marc

My brother is an interesting guy. I have no idea how he affords to live the lifestyle he does, or how no woman has yet managed to kill him for some of the relationship decisions he’s made. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as we’ve grown older, the bond that is brotherhood and family has pushed aside our differences. All in all he’s a great guy and I really enjoyed my time hanging out with him. His new condo is incredible and I’ve never explored Santa Monica all that much. I spent some time on the beach, staring at the ocean, shooting some photos, and spent the rest getting packed up and ready to fly back to Santa Cruz. I culled a lot out of my suitcase and considerably lightened my load. I would have to hit the ground running in SC, since I was immediately departing on a 3 day drive to Albuquerque, NM for “Rock The Ink: 2011“.

The Road There

Fish(eye) in the desert.
Fish(eye) in the desert.

Originally I was going to fly to Albuquerque, NM and meet up with Stephen and the Anatometal crew for Rock The Ink: 2011, a convention that Anatometal is heavily involved in. The offer was extended after my initial introduction in Las Vegas. When I mentioned flying down, Barry (the Anatometal owner) instead suggested that I drive down with him in his massive “house on wheels” RV. All I had to do was get to back to Santa Cruz. Well, it sounded like an adventure so I grabbed my camera, booked my ticket back to SC, and was on my way. It was going to be three days through the desert, not even a blip on the radar compared to my touring days, in a completely ridiculous vehicle. What’s the worst that could happen?

Now, don’t get me wrong, Barry and his 2nd in command, Tod, are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Great senses of humor, hospitable, generous, and fun to hang out with, Barry and I can wax photographica endlessly. The two of them represent a wealth of life experience I only hope I can one day achieve. There is one massive caveat though…

Looking Back
Looking Back

The two of them smoke more cigarettes than I have ever witnessed any human beings smoke in my life. I had an ex-girlfriend who smoked a lot, but these two put her to shame. Driving down the road, it’s no big deal. Just pop the windows open and it’s fine. I’m not a complainer and smoking in general doesn’t really bother me that much. My extensive touring experience has given me a pretty thick skin. I know how the road works. Where it killed me though, was at night when the RV is parked and closed up. I know now what it must be like to try and asphyxiate yourself in a garage. I’m not about to ask or tell a man to not smoke in his own house though.

I was willing to overlook the catastrophic effects on my health, but the damage that cigarette smoke can do to my equipment had me really worried. The gear I travel with, my camera, my laptop, my clothes… are all I have (yes, the same argument exists for my health). While I do hold the philosophical opinion that everything in my life is ultimately replaceable (with one, critical, exception), the practical reality is that I am not in a position to just be willy-nilly buying new things if they get damaged or destroyed. I understand that everyone’s situation is not the same, I only ask that they respect mine. Yeah, not so much. I did my best to keep my gear sealed up tight, but it was akin to fighting the tide.

Side Trips

On the way down to Albuquerque, we made two real side trips and one minor one. The first was a scant ride over to an abandoned water park outside of Yermo, CA. The second, a three and a half hour drive from AZ to Utah, up to Monument Valley that would push my tolerance to its limits. It would be the first of two times it would happen on this trip.

Yermo, CA – Abandoned Water Park

Decay
Abandoned Water Park

Barry and Tod had been talking about this place since Vegas. It’s just off The 15 near Yermo, CA. I was hoping for a bit more urban decay than I got, but it is still an amazing site for shooting photos. I would love to get some people and models together and go back and do a proper shoot. This trip was mostly exploratory for me, but I did manage to get some fun shots in. I have a much better idea about the site now and will definitely be returning.

Ok, that is enough TL:DR for now. Part 2 will be inbound shortly.

This isn’t the last…

I’ve been thinking all morning about where to start this. I can’t really decide on an appropriate starting point. How about…

9 years ago I trekked to Los Angeles on a personal adventure and found myself waking up on Sycamore St. in Hollywood. I was in the apartment of my new friend and upcoming professional photographer, Michelle Star. I woke up, kept quiet, got dressed, and walked to Starbucks to start my day. Opportunities abound…

Yesterday I arrived in Los Angeles on a continuation of a personal adventure. Today, I found myself waking up on Sycamore St. in Hollywood. I was in the apartment of my old friend and well known professional photographer, Michelle Star. I woke up, kept quiet, got dressed, and walked to Starbucks to start my day. Opportunities abound…

Too “history repeating”? Hmmm, how about…

I’m sitting in a Starbucks on the corner La Brea & Santa Monica in LA. I’ve sat in this Starbucks before, 2 years ago, while on a break/materials gathering mission while working on a job at Paramount Studios. I can see, from where I am sitting now, the GameStop and Target I went to, looking for a Mad Catz Rock Band Drum Cymbal Extension Kit for the stage I was building for the “Get Schooled” media event (see “Résumé” above).

Funny where you end up sometimes.

Not quite what I was looking for. Just the act of being here is changing how this is progressing, adding new potential to the mental mix.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in LA, a city I’m on record for not being a huge fan of after living here 9 years ago. I’ve warmed to it a bit in the time since, but it still doesn’t sit right with me. “New York State of Mind” is playing on the radio. I loved living in NYC when I did. It’s not the city for me anymore really, sadly, but I wouldn’t trade the time I spent there for anything, good or bad. As I’m thinking of all those old times, feeling nostalgic, I look out the window to my left. A girl on a fixie just got hammered by a car on the corner of La Brea and Santa Monica Blvd. The car takes off. She is banged up, but ok. Her bike is rough shape. I rush outside to help.

The same thing happened to me 13 years ago on 8th & Broadway in NYC. I’ve told the story a thousand times. I start to wonder if it’s some kind of cosmic sign. My old life and my new life colliding? My past catching up to me? A chance to pay back some karma? I hold the belief that there really is no such thing as coincidence, you just need to be aware and recognize events as they happen, then try and decipher their significance. So now I’m sitting here thinking about what that might be.

A bit esoteric. How about just some recap action?

If you’ve been following this website, blog, journal, experiment, whatever it is, for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a history of being a bit all over the place… in more than just one regard. That wanderlust is seemingly baked in to my DNA/soul/consciousness/whatever. It’s driven by my perpetual feeling of a lack of purpose, or sense of really belonging anywhere. I move around a lot, try new things, and generally try and fill my life with skills and experience.

So now I’m sitting in a familiar Starbucks on La Brea and Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles, CA. This morning I woke up on the couch of an old friend, a friend I met here 9 years ago. Yesterday I was walking through the fog in Santa Cruz.  So, just how did I end up in this seat?

Approx 2 years ago: I move from my apartment in Las Vegas, NV to Boston, MA for a shot at a fulltime job at Harmonix Music Systems, Inc. It’s a longshot, but the culmination of a lifetime of freelance work in the videogame event industry. Long story short, I get the job and become the Event Specialist for Harmonix. I go on to help produce events like E3, PAX (East & Prime), and Gamescom. I also slide into a kind of defacto photographer role for the team I’m on.

Approx 6 months ago: I quit my job at Harmonix Music Systems, Inc after the company is sold by MTV/Viacom and internal event production is scaled way down as the studio shifts it’s focus and new partners exert influence. I make the decision to move to Paris, FR for as long as a travel visa will allow. While there, I also travel to places like Cannes, Brussels, Antwerp, NYC, Bierves, Le Mans, etc. While in Paris I work on not just my photography and writing, but on myself. I try and sort out all my personal short-comings, my flaws, my weaknesses… the things I don’t particularly like about myself. I attempt to reconcile the two sides of myself that I feel are constantly at odds with each other. To find some kind of balance. In the process I end up boiling myself down a lot. I discover a lot of things about myself and for the first time in a long time I feel like I have priorities. I solidify some goals, make plans, and feel not only a sense of purpose, but also of belonging and comfort. I start to consolidate and focus on what I want in my life. A new me starts to emerge.

Seattle
Seattle

Approx 1 month ago: I leave Paris bound for Seattle, WA. I’ve spent as much time as I could in Paris without risking deportation. For the first time in a long time though, I don’t want to leave where I am. I actually like Paris and the life that was starting there. Duty calls. I’m headed to see Suki Valentine, a friend from way back, from the old New York days. She’s building and opening a new store in Seattle and I agreed to help out with the opening. She’s offered me a place to stay while I do. Though I’m sad to leave Paris, I am excited at this opportunity. After nearly 5 months of creative and emotional focus, I’m going to see if my practical skills are still sharp. I find that not only are they, but I am able to find some the balance I had been working towards. I start shooting photos for the store after it opens. I build massive playlists and DJ sets as well. I work on social media. I meet a lot of great people and even get a chance to shoot some photography on the set of a film in Olympia. I kind of like Seattle and the potential it presents. I seem to have started down the path I was working towards, but something is missing.

Approx 1 week ago: I leave Seattle, bound for Santa Cruz, CA. The housing thing didn’t quite pan out as expected in Seattle. I slept on the floor of the store a lot. I slept on the couches of new friends. It was fine, I’m adaptable and experienced. I’m good at making due with what is available. The hospitality and kindness shown to me by new friends was amazing. I’m not really comfortable with that for too long though. I don’t like intruding on people’s lives, no matter how much they insist that I’m not.

Patton
Patton

So it was off to Santa Cruz, CA, the home of my best friend, Stephen, his lovely fiancé Heather, and their hilarious Welsh Corgi, Patton. You can read more about that in the post right below this one. There will be another incoming shortly, a follow up on my time spent in Santa Cruz.

Yesterday: It’s an intensely foggy evening in Santa Cruz. Stephen drops me off at San Jose airport and I board a little prop plane bound for Los Angeles, CA. It’s a more introspective flight than usual. Since the plane never clears 25,000ft during the whole flight, I can watch the sun set below the California coastline and the lights of cities twinkle on. The two stewardesses are hilarious. They dole out complimentary drinks with wild abandon. The front cabin stewardess talks like she’s smoked two packs of Camel Light Wides a day since she was born. It was entertaining.

Sunset
San Jose Sunset

The fog is just as intense in LA when we land as it was in Santa Cruz when I left. It lends a kind of quiet to the arrival as we slowly descend though it. You still deplane to the tarmac on flights like this, and we’re all standing in the fog waiting for our luggage to emerge. It’s surreal and still kind of quiet. I get my bag and all that quiet goes away the second I emerge from the other side of LAX. It’s like the car version of white water rapids if it was a race and you were allowed to jump into the rafts from the sidelines. Cacophonous madness, but that’s LA. I knew what I was getting into.

Arrival
Arrival

Michelle and I chat on the drive. We catch up a little bit. I see her new place, drop my stuff. She’s been awake for 25 hours and is out pretty quickly. I drop onto the couch in her living room, putting pretty much everything aside for the evening. Stephen had let me borrow “Do Travel Writers Go To Hell” by Thomas Kohnstamm, so I start in just to see how it is. 3 hours later, I finish it. I start it over again, book marking passages with, appropriately, old boarding passes, airport receipts, and TSA inspection notices. Some of the paragraphs read like I wrote them, or at least like I thought them. Paragraphs like:

I am rarely lonely or depressed when I travel alone – except when I first wake up in the morning. My eyes adjust to the surroundings and I try to figure out where I am and what I’m doing there. One white ceiling with cracked paint is the same as the next. It is also a point in the day when I have too much space to reflect on the events that have led me to where I am, and to think about what else I could be doing with my life.

By the time I was though the second read, it was about 5:00AM. So much for sleep. I hadn’t really eaten all that much in the past day or so either. Sleep was in order. I’d figure out food tomorrow. Dreams were strange. I was up by 10:00AM. And now… here I sit, tip-tapping away, trying to get all this in order. LA is going to be a bit crazy (more on that later).

So yeah, something like that. Not the most detailed of recaps, but you can always just go read the individual posts if you’re interested.

And now we’re caught up a bit. For those that really know me, they know that I am omitting parts of this story, including one of the most important parts, actually, but that’s the way it is for now. The time isn’t quite right for that.

So that’s where I sit, literally. Dinner with my brother tonight and a shoot that starts first thing in the morning.

One apple, Two ideas

Petit Dejeuner
Petit Dejeuner

Notes for the week:

WiFi + Bistro = Wistro. I’m not sure I like this name, but it’s everywhere here.

Average daily calories.
Average daily calories.

I was told that I need to start making food more of a priority. This is actually pretty true. For some reason eating just sits at the bottom of my daily “to do” list. I can go an entire day on a cup of coffee and a croissant and just not feel hungry. It’s not that I don’t like eating, or food (quite the contrary), it’s just something that slips through the cracks. I actually love sharing meals with people as a vehicle for conversation and interaction, so maybe that’s part of it. When I’m on my own to eat I guess it just doesn’t seem important. Speaking of priorities, every time I hear that word I can only think of the following quote from Jim Collins:

If you have more than 3 priorities, you don’t have any…

Works for me. Oh wait, you wanted to know what they are? Hmm… maybe next time.

Real Life & Real Time
Real Life & Real Time

Real Life vs. Real Time. This is something I’ve written about in the past. It is essentially the conflict between people and the world we live in as it relates to expectations about interacting with each other within the context of that modern world. Technology now bends us toward “Real Time” interaction, but the reality is that we exist in a “Real Life” setting. This is something I’ve experienced first hand in my life, from both sides, and is something I go back and forth with. These days, when you receive an email, or a text, or a missed call, etc, from someone, “Real Time” dictates that you reply immediately simply because you have the capacity to do so. Technology has given us nearly 24/7 availability and can provide us with the options for a near instantaneous response time. Because of this, the sender has an expectation about how quickly you will reply because they know you have the capacity. Not meeting this expectation can result in conflict (I’m sure that if you live in the “modern” world, you’ve experienced this, it’s often very passive-aggressive). The truth of the matter is though, that expectation usually does not take “Real Life” into account. Just because you have the technological capacity to reply immediately, doesn’t mean you always can… or should. This is where the line exists when it comes to compromising “Real Life” for “Real Time”, that the communication should exist a kind of bubble. Now, I say “compromise” on purpose because there is a lot of the time where this competition just doesn’t exist. If a person is sitting on a park bench and they get a text, email, etc, of course they can just immediately reply. That isn’t really compromising anything critical or high impact for the sake of availability. But if you send an email while someone is in a movie or on a date or in a meeting or… whatever, and then get mad because they didn’t reply until it was over (even after they may have told you where they were), that is kind of, well, the essence of this idea. The expectation that a reply will come back immediately because they are enabled to, and the obligation they might feel do to so for the same reason, is a little silly. And that’s the weird back-end of this, the sense of guilt or anxiety from not replying immediately. It’s almost like “Real Time” is becoming human nature, an innate desire and need to be that available, to provide “Real Time” responses to everything, and supplanting the concept of “Real Life”.

Now, this isn’t all to say that “Real Time” should never be considered. It’s very easy to read through this and say “You know what, screw “Real Time”, I’ll reply whenever I feel like it!“. I suppose no one can tell you not to, but there is a bit of modern courtesy and practicality involved. Not replying just for the sake of sticking it to someone’s ideas about an appropriate time-frame, or to prove a point, is just as nonconstructive as sacrificing “Real Life”. Some people just have priority status, and of course there are things like emergencies and other mitigating circumstances. The point is to find a balance and not let one take over the other, and if you do let it fade either way, to make sure it’s for the right reasons.

This image has nothing to do with the following paragraph.
Unrelated Photo

I was also thinking about the correlation between coin money, comparing the Dollar to the Euro, and speaking French. So, first off, there is a common American joke about the “man purse”, or “European man bag”, etc etc. Well, it’s for good reason. COIN MONEY. Good lord, there is a coin for every possible denomination here and they are used exclusively in a lot of places (i.e. no bills) so you have to carry them around with you (This does lead to a fun game though, of having a “coin money” day where you just try to get rid of all of it). So having some kind of bag makes a lot of sense here, which is good news for me since bags are my one real retail weakness. This kind of ties into living here for a while now (does 2 months count as “a while”?) and the need to stop comparing the Euro to the Dollar. It is incredibly difficult to do, especially as someone who will end up back in the US at some point, and even more-so as someone who watches his money like a hawk. The Euro is strong against the Dollar right now so money goes quicker than anticipated. It’s easy to keep comparing, but it is also maddening to do so. I was thinking about this relationship and it reminded me of learning and speaking a different language. At some point you just start to innately understand the new language instead of using your native tongue as a reference. I was only thinking about that because I really need to get on the ball about learning French.

My 60D
The Great 28 on my 60D

The last thing I’ll yammer about is the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM. This is a bit of camera nerdery so feel free to skip it if that is of no interest to you.

So, the common recommendation for prime lenses when you first pick up a DLSR is the classic 50mm. If you’re a Canon user, this is the EF 50mm f/1.8 II, aka The Nifty Fifty. No doubts, it is an AMAZING lens (although I use it’s big brother, the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM) especially since you can pick it for about $99. It’s incredible for portraits, but a bit tight on a crop sensor, like the 60D, for everyday use since it actually becomes an 80mm. For a while I was shooting walk-around on the EF 35mm f/2. It is the classic length for full-frame photography and it crops out to 56mm on the 1.6x sensors, so it’s is decent to work with in standard shooting, although the quality of the lens itself leaves a little to be desired. There isn’t currently a mid-tier USM version of the 35mm in Canon’s line-up, there is just the 35mm f/2 and the $1500 EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM. It’s too bad, since it’s a good length and probably a better prime length to cut your teeth on than the 50mm. The real hidden gem here though, and what has become my most used and most loved lens, is the often overlooked EF 28mm f/1.8 USM. This lens is my little workhorse and it produces some amazing images, especially of flowers (yeah, that’s right, I like to take pictures of flowers. So what. Wanna fight about it?).

Flowers
28mm Bokeh

It produces bokeh unlike any other lens I own, adding a sense of almost “hatched motion” to unfocused backgrounds. A lot of the photos in my Flower Flicker Set were shot on the 28mm for this very reason. It’s similar to how the 50mm f/1.4 produces the “dream” effect around subjects when it’s stopped down all the way. I pretty much never go anywhere without my 28mm because I know that it can pick up any of my daily duties in a pinch. It crops to 45mm so it can handle portraits, as shown, it’s amazing for flowers (rivaling even my EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro) and other daily shots, and with a little distance, can pull off wide-angle duty. It’s very a much a “frame with your feet” lens, but given it’s small size, it’s easy to get right up on whatever you’re shooting without too much hassle. If I could only ever bring one lens with me anywhere, it’d be a tough choice between the Great 28 or the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM. That’s saying a lot for an obscure little prime, but it has made a believer out of me.

Well, that’s all for now.

A Day In The Life

I feel compelled to commit this to medium before it goes out of my head. Not that I think it will, not how I’m feeling at this very moment, because it’s one of those feelings I think a person only ever experiences a precious few times in their life.

Paris: Life
Packing

Two months ago I left the United States, Boston specifically (but that’s another story), and moved to Paris, France. I don’t speak French. I’d only ever been here once before in my life, for 5 of the most wonderful days I had ever experienced in my life. I came here for a lot of reasons. For adventure. To escape. To test myself. To explore aspects of myself I had shelved for the sake of my work. More so, however, I came here to be close to a woman. A woman who, in the short time I’ve known her, has changed my perceptions of a great many things in my life. She moved here for many of the same reasons that I listed above. Knowing that made the decision to move here incredibly difficult.

I can handle myself. I am efficient, adaptable, capable, smart, and creative. I can understand how most things work in a very short period of time. I suppose it’s the definition of “having a head” for something. I know how to travel, how to live with very little, and how to make the best of nearly any situation. I’m rarely “out of my element” because I don’t really have an element. As my brother would say, quoting Bruce Lee, “You must be like water.” None of the practical aspects of any of this move were difficult for me. Language, custom, tradition, day-to-day… easy. I learn, I adapt, I integrate.

What made it difficult, beyond my ability to even parse in my head sometimes, was that I did not want to, I could not, impose on this woman. This was her time, not mine, and none of my reasons for coming to Paris really held up, not in the shadow of wanting to be with her. I had to respect her choice. I did. She is one of my dearest friends. It was a terrifying decision, but one I ultimately had to make. And I did. And I made it with one repeating thought in my head (ok, maybe two).

Paris: Life - Writing
Writing

My whole life I have felt that I have been missing two things: Place and Purpose. Anyone who knows me knows this about me, though I’m sure it is not uncommon. That I have never felt like I belonged anywhere that I was and that I never felt as if I had any kind of purpose greater than just existing. My best friend Jess once famously said to me “Maybe your purpose is just to have no purpose. I’m sorry that of all of us, that had to be you.” (14 years later I would hear the line “Just suppose that the shaping and molding of destiny… is your destiny.” when watching the remake of “My Sassy Girl” and noted the similarity). I’ve thought about that line a lot in my life and years ago I started to accept it as the truth. It lead me to a place of indifference about pretty much everything. I was completely non-nonchalant and ambivalent in my decision making process. I let a lot of things just happen, without really trying to influence them or affect them (as much as one can) in any particular way. I became content to just… see what happened. My skillset made this pretty easy, especially my adaptability and problem solving skills. It was easy to just cast my sail and see where the wind would take me.

It sounds romantic, I suppose, on some level, to be that carefree about things, but carefree can quickly become careless if you’re not careful. It is also, as I would discover, ultimately just really selfish. I wasn’t committed to any particular place or any particular people (in a broad sense). Places are easy. People not so much. A person, least of all. Sure, I had people in my life I love, dearly, and I still functioned as a person (duh) and knew how to play my part, but in the end, it was very difficult to feel like I needed to make an overwhelming effort to maintain anything since, well, I’d only happened into it in the first place and I was only really just passing through. As my friend Nina would say “Fuck you, Mercury, you are such a goddamn fatalist.”

Paris: Kyle - Train
Paris: Kyle - Train

If you’ve reached this point and have decided “Jesus, what a self afflicted, self centered, asshole.” I wouldn’t blame you. When I look back over a lot of my life, I feel the same way, though my friends tell me otherwise (two sides, always). You might also be asking “What the fuck does this have to do with Paris?” I’m getting to that.

So here I was. Torn between leaving for Paris and just leaving her to the time alone I know she needed. And then, one night, laying in bed, a thought just crawled up there. “Hey…” it said, “Hey, why are you even debating this? Why don’t you snap the hell out of it and get your shit together? You know you are capable of it, the practical, that part is easy. Stop looking for an excuse not to. You can’t leave it to the wind, to chance, this time. You’ve finally found something worth going after. Make the decision to chase this hope, this dream.

I was right. Well, the tiny me in my head was. This was different. This was worth it. I couldn’t just sit around and hope what I wanted would happen. I had to go do it, go make it happen. And maybe I would fail, but I had to be able to say to myself “This is what I wanted and I did something about it. I took that chance.” And in that second, in that flash, I had found Purpose. Even if just for this one thing, I knew what I needed to do.

So, with that out of the way (you know, just like that), I was off to Paris. Well, not quite, I had some stops along the way, but for the purpose of this writing, I was off to Paris. That was two months ago.

Now here I sit. Today is my last day in my little apartment in Bastille. It has been a complicated two months. I took my chance, I stepped up and made a choice, and nothing ever happens how you expect it to. But this isn’t the end of this story, this is just the start of it (I know, you’re thinking “Then why the fuck did I just read all of the above?“, trust me, I’m thinking the same thing about writing it.) and here’s why.

Place. This place. Paris.

Paris: Life - IG Version
Paris - My Paris

Ok, ok. Sorry. So knowing the above, you know that I’ve never felt at home anywhere really. I mean, I can integrate and make due with where I am, but I don’t know that I’ve ever lived anywhere long term that I’ve really felt is home to me. The one exception to this might be New York City. I lived there for 12 years and I do love that city. It was home for a while, but I was far younger in those days. Looking back, I know that NYC what what I needed it to be for me at that time. I love it for that, but I know it is not what I need anymore. For me, home is a lot more about the people I’m with than the place I am. I don’t know if that last fact has played into how I’ve come to feel about Paris, and while I suspect greatly that it has, I am not ready to leave this city. Not even a little bit.

This is one of the most unexpected things about this adventure for me. To be in a place where I do not speak the language, where so many things are different, where I have never been… and to totally fall in love with it. To, despite all those things, feel like I can fit here. To wake up and like where I am. To walk down a street, to want to see more, do more, to know more. I suppose this is the ultimate draw of Paris, why so many people love it here, so in that regard I guess I’m not unique, but I was not really ready for this. I have pictured aspects of my life here that I have never imagined before in my life and I do not want to leave that, at least not yet (there are rules, after all).

So, it’s strange. Somewhere along the way I managed to find Purpose and Place, and that lead to something else unexpected; Identity. (I was thinking about making a venn diagram for those three things, but graph-jamming isn’t exactly one of my strong suits.)

Paris: Kyle - Rooftop
A rare shot.

Anyway, yes, Identity, the last of my great personal struggles. If you remember from way back up at the top of this post, I talked about selfishness. One might point out that selfishness is an aspect of understanding identity. I mean, if I only ever thought of myself I must have a good idea about what I want and who I am, right? Sure, except that I am not a selfish person. Being a selfish person was, is, not a part of who I really am, same thing with also being so ambivalent about so many other things in my life. Now, I do understand that the way I was living was masking who I was from myself. In this past year, where I was (Boston) was doing the same thing. My Purpose (or lack thereof) and Place were obfuscating my Identity from me and everyone else I care about (or didn’t). I had fallen into a role I was playing, more than one actually, on a stage I didn’t want to be on. The demeanor I was putting forward was not the nature of who I am (This line is attributed to my best [yes, I have more than one] friend, Stephen, who once said: “People don’t change. They can’t really, because who they are is made up of so many things they aren’t even aware of, that they can’t even remember. They can change what they show the world, their demeanor, but never who they really are, their true nature.“). Some people, like Stephen, have a nearly identical nature and demeanor. They do not hide much from the world and are honest with those around them. You can take what you see or not, but they are not going to play some part for you. Some people have an opposite nature and demeanor. Some people hide their true nature behind their demeanor. Some people don’t even know what their true nature is.

In any case, with my Purpose a little better defined and my Place filling an actual role in my life, my Identity has begun to form. I don’t feel nearly as lost as I used to and I look in the mirror now and recognize the person looking back. He’s not complete yet, but his core is there. He has dreams and goals. He has an idea about the direction he wants to move in and he’s not afraid to take steps in that direction. To start down that path proactively, instead of just wondering if the wind will take him in that direction and casually accepting if it doesn’t.

This is the real reason I came here. These were the changes I needed in my life, to help make it an actual life, and not just an existence. And I am not ready for it to be over. Not that I think it will be if I leave, but Paris has filled that Place role so well. Doubt always lurks in the background, and it can come on so quickly, but being here, doing what I know I need to be doing, what I want to be doing, can keep that at bay. It gives me the chance to be me, and I kind of finally like who that person is becoming.

Set aflame…

I’m watching a strange movie called ‘History of My Sexual Failures” on Sundance. I want it to be funny, but it’s really just kind of awkward and sad. I can’t really relate. It’s also almost 5AM on Easter Sunday (not that it really matters what day it is) and I’m being to told to go to sleep (instead, I’m writing this) but she’s right, I should probably get some rest. This is going to throw my whole schedule off this week.

Not that I really have a schedule. Usually I can just make due with the sleep I get, regardless of how little it is. It takes a lot to wear me down, even when I try to do it to myself. I have a reserve I just can’t seem to empty, physically, emotionally (with certain people), etc. I have been trying recently too, just to see what it would take.

Self Portrait: 50mm Misc IIIAnyway, this is not how I had intended to start this post. Originally it came about from thinking about by the phrase “Love is patient, love is kind.” (that might not be the actual quote) and how, really (semantically) it most certainly is not. People in love are patient and kind, love (if it really possesses any actual intrinsic values) tends to be impatient and pretty cruel sometimes. Impatient in the way that it waits for nothing. Once love is on the scene, it wants what it wants and those in the line of fire have no choice, really, but to acquiesce. And in that you have the cruelty aspect. Love takes hold and you do what it says, although that can certainly include being patient and kind. For the record: my patience is unconditional, as is my kindness (for those who know me).

Lost KeysWell, now it’s two days later. I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally. I know how to fix both those things, but there is also a matter of opportunity that needs to present itself. I probably shouldn’t even be writing this with the mood I’m in. The combination of factors involved drag me so far up and down over the course of a single day. Well, that and I’m at work. The first day of my last week. Things are coming hard and fast with very little room for error. Not that I think I’ll make many, but I keep telling myself to make a list and, well, I never do for some reason. I tend to function better in real time.

It’s funny how people always say that my patience is one of my most amazing virtues, yet I feel like I am the most impatient man alive.

It’s been another full day. While I’m a bit better rested, I’m also a day behind on packing up my apartment, which I have to be out of in four days.

In this picture stands a man
far away, alone, and distant
like a solitary field
in some nameless, foreign, land

My heart aches. There are days when it feels like the whole world has gone away. When everyone that I normally communicate with is silent. All I want is to reach out, for someone to reply or say anything to me, just so I know someone is there. I don’t know, maybe that’s an unreasonable expectation. It’s hard to rely on people to be there for me, but at the same time, no one is beholden to that. It’s no one’s, I’m no ones, burden and I refuse to ever be. Something I said almost a decade ago keeps resonating in my head: ‘I like being by myself, I hate being alone.”

Gina: VI’m good at being by myself, or at least that’s what I’ve always said (maybe out of necessity). It’s a strength thing, a confirmation of ones ability to stand on their own two feet. To not need anyone, per se. The fact of the matter is, that is just a default. Everyone has to be good at being by themselves, it’s literally the only way to function. Not everyone is good at being alone though, but I’m slowly starting to realize, that’s not a bad thing. You can still be independent, strong, determined, able, effective, creative, etc and still want to be, need to be, with someone. Especially if that someone inspires you, pushes and drives you. It’s ok to get those things from another person, and not just yourself. I know I can do that for myself, it’s there, I’ve proven it a thousand times over, but I want it to be enhanced, augmented, pushed forward, by another person. By her. And I want to do the same for that person.

Troy: Caution - PoisonIt’s not about sacrificing independence, it’s not about giving up that which makes up me. It’s about becoming something so much more with someone else. It’s about filling in that piece that is missing. You can figure out what the puzzle is supposed to be with pieces missing, but it won’t really be complete until those last pieces are filled in. Sometimes, it’s another person who has those pieces. Maybe that’s the lesson. I don’t know. But I do know what I want.

And now I have to strike out again on my own, like I always have. I have to shore up my reserves and push forward yet again. Although it is different this time, it feels so much the same and I don’t want it to be that way. What progress is there if I’m just going through the same motions once again? I have a goal this time, but there are time when I feel like it’s slipping away from me. My whole life has been the journey, I’m ready to get to one of the goals now. I can see it so clearly and I want it so badly.

Maybe, just this once?

Delays…

Even in the course of writing just this, I’ve delayed by three days. I’m now only putting this here for the sake of actually posting something.

It’s been a while. Not so much in terms of chronology, especially given this particular website, but more-so that so much has happened in that time. It’s also certainly not for a lack of anything to write, given that I’m sitting on about a dozen half finished posts about twice as many topics (though curiously, nearly all written on a train of some sort).
Self Portrait: Flash IIHere are some of those excerpts, just for posterity’s sake.

It’s becoming painfully obvious that I’m living a bit outside my means. Not financially, mind you, not at all, but more-so in a personal sense. I seem to have woven a complicated web of emotional entanglements and poorly defined relationships recently. Well, maybe not so much recently, but lately they seem to be coming dangerously close to crossing over, or worse, colliding (I use “worse” loosely, see below).

The worst part about all this really is the level of detachment I’m develoing alongside the intense levels of distress certain aspects are causing me. This is what I mean by “living outside of my means”. My highs and lows have been much more intense, ranging far outside what I consider to be my usual parameters.

And there is a good reason I will always consider myself the villain.

I do my sincere best to do the right thing. Probably to a fault, since often times I will undertake a course of action that leads me to do what I think is the right thing for other people and not just myself. I don’t do this out of ego (maybe a lie), or at least I don’t think I do (a lie, sometimes I do), I just usually want to see people happy, despite my own outcome. A lot of times the protection of that happiness means obfuscating the truth of something to preserve a fragile balance.

I never tell people the whole story. Well, that’s not true. I’ve told one person, a person who does the same for me. A person who was, is, worth the risk of standing exposed in front of. Without my armor. Without my safeguards against the world. She knows more about me that anyone else alive. She has my secrets in her hand. She is the only person who is not part of my overwhelmingly obsessive need to compartmentalize the people in my life. She stands above that. I should say she floats above that. To me she is an angel. She argues otherwise. It’s a semantic argument about perfection. But now I’m getting off course. Suffice to say, she is perfect to me.

Well, it’s now been 8 days since I wrote the above. I once again find myself on a train (a common theme around these parts), exhausted (I got about an hour of sleep last night), on my way back to Boston from NYC. The paragraph above was originally followed but an outline regarding trust, but it’s not really relevant any more. Suffice to say, above all things, sometimes you share a connection with a person that is simply too strong, too amazing, to really even be able to articulate in text.

In any case… (I have a brutal headache at the moment, which is rare for me.)

Angels Ritual: IAt the moment I’m in the process of, what has humorously becomes known as, buttoning things up in my life. At the moment it’s mostly just fulfilling the last of certain obligations. Some I’m just barely squeaking by, others I’m finalizing down to a T. I’m not sure which this post attempt will become. I know I’m going to stop writing this at some point before I finish and then I’m just going to have one giant post made up of other unfinished posts and that is just far too much quoting for me to deal with.

So, I decided to resign from my position of Event Specialist at Harmonix Music Systems. There is a laundry list of reasons, but let’s stick with “it just wasn’t a good fit”. It’s kind of a shame too, because I really do believe in this company and its games. Unfortunately, there just isn’t place for me there anymore. I’m not sure how I really feel about it, to be honest. The more I shift back into my freelance mindset the more I realize it was the correct decision. I had compromised a lot of personal and professional values for the job because I loved the work. As the work started to slide away, those sacrifices and compromises started to tip the balance in the other direction. I need to feel challenged, pushed, by my work. I need to be moving forward, learning new things, and testing myself. I had high hopes for the job as a potential career path but hey, things don’t always go to plan. My plans are adaptable though. Sometimes, it’s just time to move on. It was a decent year.
Troy's GlassesOf course, in a manner of speaking, that puts me on the road again. Well, makes me transient again anyway. It’s much more a lifestyle I’m accustomed to. The difference this time is that it’s not an end based on means, which is kind of how it’s always been for me (queue Wherever I May Roam). I actually have some goals set, things I want to do, places I want to see, and a person I want more than anything to be with. I’ve gained a bit of clarity on my own timeline, which is something I’ve never really had, and now I need to apply what I’ve made a living doing to my personal life: Meticulous Execution.

I’d be lying if I said I had a rock solid plan but, like I mentioned before, my plans are adaptable. Certain aspects of this plan though, are most definitely not. I suppose those are the goals. I have a path though, and waypoints along the path, so what matters now is how I walk that path.
That's the idea...So, in the meantime, there are places you can expect to find me in the next few months that do not include Cambridge, MA. At any given point you can expect to find me in: Paris, Los Angeles, Prague, New York City, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Austin, Rome, Vancouver, Santa Cruz, and/or London. Nothing is definite except for the fact that home has nothing to do with where I am and everything to do with who is standing beside me.

If you are even aware of this website’s existence, there is a good chance I may be in touch with you as part of a project I’m working on.
Reach.

It seems I've waited years for this day to end.